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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21553

Ms PLIBERSEK (7:39 PM) —On Sunday, 12 October I was fortunate enough to go to a 15th birthday party. It was the 15th anniversary of a group called People Living with HIV/AIDS—a group that is particularly active in my electorate of Sydney. I was with them five years ago on their 10th anniversary, and it was wonderful to be invited back five years later for their 15th anniversary. I hope not to be with them for a 20th anniversary. I hope that a cure will have been found for HIV-AIDS before that time—but, if not, I certainly will be there to support their excellent work.

PLWHA works as an advocate on HIV policy issues such as discrimination, housing, treatment, access and hospital care. The organisation relies on its President, John Robinson, board members, staff and wonderful volunteers. But of course, most of all, it relies on the positive people who are members of PLWHA. They are brave people—helping each other, sharing information and supporting each other. PLWHA publishes facts sheets such as `I want to return to work', contact booklets and a regular magazine called Talk About. It runs campaigns—such as its recent campaign `HIV doesn't discriminate ... do you?'—and positive sexuality workshops.

The HIV epidemic has changed a great deal in the last 15 years. To be diagnosed with HIV is no longer a death sentence. New treatments are emerging all the time, and those treatments are taking less toll on the body of the person taking them. Living with the virus is a new challenge for people who have HIV. While discrimination against HIV positive people will always be an issue, I believe that the change in the virus means that many more people are having full, joyful lives with normal loving, human relationships. Good treatments are increasing not only life expectancy but also quality of life. Many more people with HIV are remaining in the work force. Workplaces—and society generally—have to become places which do not discriminate against people on the basis of their HIV status. I wish the staff, the board, the wonderful volunteers and, most of all, the positive people who are members of PLWHA a very happy 15th birthday.

I turn briefly to another issue. I recently noticed some information that a constituent received from Medicare. It is information about how to register for the safety net. Individuals are able to register and families and couples are allowed to register. For Medicare safety net purposes, however, the definition of `family' is once again a very old-fashioned one. The definition is:

A couple legally married and not separated or a man and a woman in a de facto relationship. A couple legally married and not separated or a man and a woman in a de facto relationship with any dependent children. A single person with any dependent children. A dependent child is under 16 years of age or a full-time student under 25 years of age whom you support.

There is no mention at all of same sex relationships. Mr Speaker, you would have many constituents who are in long-term committed financially interdependent and emotionally interdependent relationships who happen to be of the same gender. It disappoints me no end that, in the year 2002, we still have official discrimination against people in same sex relationships. I would urge the government to reconsider this issue.